This week, St. John’s travels to Orlando for the Advocare Invitational Tournament, run by the ESPN Networks. Orlando will not just be a place for humidity and rollercoasters for the Johnnies - it is a land of opportunity with serious pitfalls for Chris Mullin’s team available in the three-day tournament.
The bracket has one surefire top-tier team: the West Virginia Mountaineers. Some of the other programs are competent, but outside of the possibility of Missouri becoming a much better side in the coming months, the Red Storm will want to go at least 2-1 in this tournament to start getting excited about postseason play in March.
Advocare Invitational Bracket
Previewing Advocare: the upshot
This year’s Advocare Invitational is far less stacked than the Battle 4 Atlantis last season, or the Maui Invitational the year before. This field has one team that is likely to be a sub-300 RPI squad, another low-major that has potential, two high majors that are likely to struggle, a couple of teams that could play their way to the NCAA Tournament fringes and a team that is likely to be a high seed in March’s national tournament.
The Red Storm have talent in the backcourt with Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett and energy in the frontcourt with Tariq Owens, plus an emerging point guard/ glue star in Justin Simon. But the foul trouble bugaboo could become a serious issue in each round.
On the big stage, the Red Storm could earn some solid wins over major-conference opponents that will look better as the year goes on, and boost the team’s record before a sneaky-tough road swing out west challenges the team.
Tall teams in this tournament, which could be a yearlong challenge for the Johnnies, will be a consistent test if the Red Storm face the three best available teams in their brackets (Oregon State, Missouri and West Virginia).
Quick scouting the teams
Marist Red Foxes (0-3)
Since the Mid Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) is the conference sponsor for the Advocare Invitational, the MAAC gets a representative. This year, the Red Foxes are the MAAC team.
Despite the MAAC being a better conference than, say, the NEC (where Central Connecticut and upcoming opponent Sacred Heart play), Mike Maker’s Red Foxes look to be a bottom-50 team. With three low-level teams already on the schedule, this is a matchup the Johnnies would prefer not to play.
- Junior Brian Parker, a 6’2” forward with a crafty back to the basket game despite his height.
- Ryan Funk, a 6’5” wing who shoots well from outside the arc.
- Aleksander Dozic (6’9”), a good rebounder who takes more than half his shots form outside the arc, and is the team’s leading passer.
- Thomas Sjoberg (6’9”), a brawny low-usage big man with a solid touch inside.
Long Beach State 49ers (2-2)
Dan Monson’s Long Beach State (Big West Conference) team plays a tough schedule of buy games each season, but added a game against Division II San Francisco State. The 49ers beat a decent University of San Francisco team before taking on two of the other teams in the Advocare Invitational... losing a somewhat close game to Oregon State (89-81) and getting blown out by West Virginia.
LBSU jettisoned four starters in the offseason and start fairly fresh with a number of newcomers.
Gabe Levin, a 6’7”, 215 pound senior, has been effective on the glass and inside the arc; he’s the team’s star.
Bryan Alberts, a 6’5” wing, is an outside shooter who transferred from Gonzaga.
Mason Riggins is a 6’8”, 230 pound big man from Texas who has stepped into a bigger role, but needs to be more productive on the glass.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1)
Since we last saw Tim Miles’ team at Carnesecca Arena, the Big Ten Cornhuskers smashed North Dakota 92-70, with Isaac Copeland finding his touch to the tune of 30 points on 14 shots.
The Huskers face a test against hometown Central Florida to start their Advocare journey.
James Palmer Jr. is a 6’6” wing who could be an effective inside-outside scorer.
Glynn Watson Jr. is a 6’0” guard with a capable outside shot.
IsaacCopeland (see below)
Isaac Copeland is a Georgetown transfer who St. John’s will be familiar with. At 6’9” with a lot of scoring talent, he can be a tough player to slow down.
Oregon State Beavers (2-1)
Oregon State, out of the Pac-12, had a terrible season last year, going 5-25 after the departure of Gary Payton Jr. and the loss of Tres Tinkle to injury. Tinkle is back, and the team seems to be more competitive. But going 5-25 means that some combination of talent and coaching is lacking.
The Beavers, St. John’s first opponent, could be tough and will have something to prove for their head coach Wayne Tinkle.
Tres Tinkle (see below)
Stephen Thompson, a junior guard, is a solid shooter from Los Angeles who hasn’t found the stroke yet this season (1/15 from beyond the arc). He struggled in the Beavers’ loss to Wyoming.
Freshman Ethan Thompson (6’5”) joins his older brother and has been a strong passer in the early going.
The coach’s son, Tres Tinkle, is a 6’8” forward with an excellent game - he can shoot from outside, score inside and rebound on defense. He has picked up four fouls in each of his first three games but has still played nearly all of the team’s minutes.
Drew Eubanks is 6’10” and 250 pounds. He has played nearly three-quarters of the team’s minutes, gets to the line frequently and manages the defensive glass.
Missouri Tigers (3-1)
The Tigers, learned that star forward and likely NBA top pick Michael Porter, Jr. would sit out the season with an injury this week. Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers also came off of a close win over Division II Emporia State. The Tigers have a lot of height and go nine-deep.
Junior forward Kevin Puryear (6’7”, 238) has been sharp in the early going, the in-state player who has logged major minutes since setting foot on campus. He can shoot from outside the arc, get to the line, and handle the defensive glass.
Canisius transfer Kassius Robertson is a scorer with an outside shot who has stepped up his passing game.
Jontay Porter, Michael’s brother who reclassified so he could play a year early, has been a very good forward for the Tigers as a freshman at 6’11”, 240 pounds, despite an urge to take outside shots.
Jeremiah Tilmon, a 6’10” forward, could be primed for a breakout. The top-50 player has battled foul trouble, but in the Tigers opener, he went 7/9 from the field for 14 points.
UCF Knights (3-0)
The local Golden Knights, coached by Johnny Dawkins, have played decently without star center Tacko Fall, who played his first game of the season last Saturday. UCF is a dark-horse NCAA Tournament team with a capable squad around Fall.
Tacko Fall (see below)
AJ Davis (see below)
Chance McSpadden, in the early going, has been a dynamic guard and the team’s co-leading scorer. The local 6’4” guard has been hitting inside and outside the arc.
Dayon Griffin is a 6’4” transfer from Louisiana Tech who can deliver buckets from the outside, despite early struggles.
Tacko Fall is 7’6”, and not a sideshow; Fall is loosely on professional radars. He is possibly the nation’s best shot blocker, shoots 70% from the field (mostly dunks and layups), dominates the offensive glass and is effective on the defensive boards.
AJ Davis is 6’9”, 215 pounds, and willing to take shots from the outside. He is an inconsistent shooter from both sides of the arc, but can get to the line. Davis is also a solid rebounder.
West Virginia Mountaineers (3-1)
The Mountaineers, coached by Bob Huggins, bring their extreme pressure defense down to Orlando, hoping to suffocate opponents on their way to a trophy. West Virginia lost (by quite a bit) to a tough Texas A&M team, however, so they are not unbeatable.
The Mountaineers bring balanced scoring and strong offensive rebounding to the Advocare Invitational.
Jevon Carter is a 6’2” pressure-delivering point guard with excellent passing skills.
Daxter Miles is 6’3” and more of a turnover-avoiding scorer.
Lamont West and Wesley Harris bring a stretch-four look to West Virginia; each stands at 6’8” and each crashes the offensive glass well.